About Us
About the Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida

The Shelter Medicine Program delivers specialized training for the shelter medical professionals of today and tomorrow, provides consultation services to animal shelters, and researches the most critical threats to successful animal sheltering and community well-being.

Veterinary students at the University of Florida can complete an intensive series of elective courses to earn a Professional Certificate in Shelter Medicine, signifying they have the knowledge, experience, and wisdom to join a shelter and make an immediate positive impact.

Training programs for practicing veterinarians include the year-long Shelter Medicine Internship Program and the Shelter Consultation Mentorship Program to prepare the experts and future leaders in the Shelter Medicine field.

22 Certificates in Shelter Medicine earned by graduating senior veterinary students in the Class of 2024

Our unique certificate

6,218 Spay/neuter surgeries for community cats performed by veterinary students in 2022

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21 Shelter disease outbreak events requiring diagnosis and emergency response in 2022

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19 National seminars, webcasts, and podcasts presented in 2022

2 International conferences hosted with 3,886 attendees in 2022

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Our Mission

The mission of the Shelter Medicine Program is to provide veterinary students and practitioners with the specialized knowledge and skills to prevent and heal the medical and emotional wounds of sheltered animals, to improve community safety nets for access to needed care for marginalized animals and families, and to promote the best outcome for every at-risk animal. This mission is delivered through the following core strategies:

  • Education of veterinary students and practitioners in the problems of homeless animals, population-level and individual animal care in shelters, and community programs that reduce the number of animals needing intervention by shelters
  • Advanced training of residents, interns, and fellows to become experts and future leaders in the shelter medicine specialty field
  • Outreach field services to support shelters with proactive strategies for protecting the health and well-being of their organization’s animals and personnel and emergency interventions such as disease outbreaks, large-scale cruelty cases, and disaster response
  • Research to develop and disseminate new knowledge to solve existing and emerging threats to successful sheltering programs

Our Vision

Our vision is an army of practice-ready shelter veterinarians who have the passion and skills to make an immediate positive impact for shelter animals and the communities in which they live. The Shelter Medicine Program is grateful to Maddie’s Fund for sharing this vision and whose support from 2008-2022 made the program possible.

Composite of portraits of 22 Class of 2024 veterinary students earing the Certificate in Shelter Medicine

A New Normal in Challenging Times

The past year brought a number of challenges to the animal welfare industry across the country and to shelter medicine education. The post-pandemic recovery of shelter operations and veterinary care capacity failed to fully materialize, prolonging the shelter workforce shortage while adding stressors of decreased adoptions and transport capacity.

Together with a veterinary shortage that has yet to hit bottom, shelters and community programs are experiencing unprecedented pressure. Shelter intakes of dogs and cats are increasing as families became less financially secure, shelters are experiencing record-setting crowding, and euthanasia for space in crowded shelters is ticking up across the country, reversing decades of progress.

Against this background, the Shelter Medicine Program developed responsive programs with real-time data sharing, tactical guidelines adapted to the current limitations, personalized consultations, and partnerships with national animal welfare and human services organizations to deliver what shelters need when they need it. We’ve made remote education and help more practical, accessible, supportive, and fun, both for working professionals and for veterinary students.

Our veterinary students, who so much of the future depends on, amaze us with their resiliency and compassion as they navigate this new normal. They sign up for all the extra elective courses they can, travel to get hands-on experience in real-world shelters, and volunteer to perform hundreds of spay/neuter surgeries in order to prepare themselves for a career as animal welfare veterinarians. Many have completed a rigorous series of electives, clerkships, and externships to earn the Certificate in Shelter Medicine, a mark of outstanding achievement and day-one readiness for shelter practice.

Challenge Accepted

One of those responsive programs was the launch of an ambitious 5-year initiative, Maddie’s® Million Pet Challenge. It’s an exciting expansion of our wildly successful Million Cat Challenge, during which more than 1,500 shelters across the US and Canada came together to save more than 5 million cats.

Our new goal is to create transformative “communities of practice” that deliver access to care through humane, community-centric programming—inside and outside of the shelter. The Challenge is dedicated to helping communities build programs to keep families and pets together, improve outcomes for all shelter pets, and assure that pets who already have families will receive the care they need.

The Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida has teamed up with the innovators at UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program, Open Door Veterinary Collective, and Team Shelter USA. Together we provide a suite of integrated support options, including comprehensive and focused shelter consultations, veterinary clinic consultations to increase access to veterinary care, team wellbeing support to build resilient workplaces, mentorships in the shelter consultation process to train more expert advisors, and an online Learniverse of coach-led bootcamps and on-demand courses.

Our team leads shelters and clinics in an accelerated process of discovery and guided implementation of proven programs aimed at assuring the right outcome for every pet. Generous support from Maddie’s Fund® makes it possible to offer these services pro bono so organizations can invest all of their resources in driving the innovation their communities need.